Next morning I sent a penitent note to Kitty, imploring her to overlook my strange conduct of the previous
afternoon. My Divinity was still very wroth, and a personal apology was necessary. I explained, with a
fluency born of night-long pondering over a falsehood, that I had been attacked with a sudden palpitation of
the heart--the result of indigestion. This eminently practical solution had its effect; and Kitty and I rode out
that afternoon with the shadow of my first lie dividing us.
Nothing would please her save a canter round Jakko. With my nerves still unstrung from the previous night I
feebly protested against the notion, suggesting Observatory Hill, Jutogh, the Boileaugunge road--anything
rather than the Jakko round. Kitty was angry and a little hurt, so I yielded from fear of provoking further
misunderstanding, and we set out together towards Chota Simla. We walked a greater part of the way, and,
according to our custom, cantered from a mile or so below the Convent to the stretch of level road by the
Sanjowlie Reservoir. The wretched horses appeared to fly, and my heart beat quicker and quicker as we
neared the crest of the ascent. My mind had been full of Mrs. Wessington all the afternoon; and every inch of
the Jakko road bore witness to our old-time walks and talks. The boulders were full of it; the pines sang it
aloud overhead; the rain-fed torrents giggled and chuckled unseen over the shameful story; and the wind in
my ears chanted the iniquity aloud.
As a fitting climax, in the middle of the level men call the Ladies' Mile, the Horror was awaiting me. No other
'rickshaw was in sight--only the four black and white jhampanies, the yellow-paneled carriage, and the golden
head of the woman within--all apparently just as I had left them eight months and one fortnight ago! For an
instant I fancied that Kitty must see what I saw--we were so marvelously sympathetic in all things. Her next
words undeceived me--'Not a soul in sight! Come along, Jack, and I'll race you to the Reservoir buildings!'
Her wiry little Arab was off like a bird, my Waler following close behind, and in this order we dashed under
the cliffs. Half a minute brought us within fifty yards of the 'rickshaw. I pulled my Waler and fell back a little.
The 'rickshaw was directly in the middle of the road: and once more the Arab passed through it, my horse
following. 'Jack, Jack, dear! Please forgive me,' rang with a wail in my ears, and, after an interval: 'It's all a
mistake, a hideous mistake!'
I spurred my horse like a man possessed. When I turned my head at the Reservoir works the black and white
liveries were still waiting--patiently waiting--under the gray hillside, and the wind brought me a mocking echo
of the words I had just heard. Kitty bantered me a good deal on my silence throughout the remainder of the
ride. I had been talking up till then wildly and at random. To save my life I could not speak afterwards
naturally, and from Sanjowlie to the Church wisely held my tongue.
I was to dine with the Mannerings that night and had barely time to canter home to dress. On the road to
Elysium Hill I overheard two men talking together in the dusk--'It's a curious thing,' said one, 'how
completely all trace of it disappeared. You know my wife was insanely fond of the woman (never could see
anything in her myself) and wanted me to pick up her old 'rickshaw and coolies if they were to be got for love
or money. Morbid sort of fancy I call it, but I've got to do what the Memsahib tells me. Would you believe
that the man she hired it from tells me that all four of the men, they were brothers, died of cholera, on the way
to Hardwr, poor devils; and the 'rickshaw has been broken up by the man himself. Told me he never used a
dead Memsahib's 'rickshaw. Spoilt his luck. Queer notion, wasn't it? Fancy poor little Mrs. Wessington
spoiling any one's luck except her own!' I laughed aloud at this point; and my laugh jarred on me as I uttered
it. So there were ghosts of 'rickshaws after all, and ghostly employments in the other world! How much did
Mrs. Wessington give her men? What were their hours? Where did they go?
And for visible answer to my last question I saw the infernal thing blocking my path in the twilight. The dead
travel fast and by short-cuts unknown to ordinary coolies. I laughed aloud a second time and checked my
laughter suddenly, for I was afraid I was going mad. Mad to a certain extent I must have been, for I recollect
that I reined in my horse at the head of the 'rickshaw, and politely wished Mrs. Wessington 'good evening.'
Her answer was one I knew only too well. I listened to the end; and replied that I had heard it all before, but
should be delighted if she had anything further to say. Some malignant devil stronger than I must have entered
into me that evening, for I have a dim recollection of talking the commonplaces of the day for five minutes to
the thing in front of me.
'Mad as a hatter, poor devil--or drunk. Max, try and get him to come home.'
Surely that was not Mrs. Wessington's voice! The two men had overheard me speaking to the empty air, and
had returned to look after me. They were very kind and considerate, and from their words evidently gathered
that I was extremely drunk. I thanked them confusedly and cantered away to my hotel, there changed, and
arrived at the Mannerings' ten minutes late. I pleaded the darkness of the night as an excuse; was rebuked by
Kitty for my unlover-like tardiness; and sat down.